In the past few days, I've just begun to realize the importance of a close-knit family.
It got me to thinking about all the broken and dysfunctional families out there, and how much of a blessing our family is for all of its members -- not just me.
I'll cite a couple of examples. Last week, I had a blowout driving home after children's choir practice at church, with my son in the car. I guided my disabled vehicle to the side of the road and it limped out of the flow of traffic.
Before I even called for a tow truck, I called my sister-in-law to tell her what had happened. She called her husband, who was on his way home from work and would be there in a few minutes. Then I called my husband, who was rehearsing with his church choir.
Within minutes, my sister-in-law arrived, and whisked my son off to her house so he wouldn't stand by a busy road. Shortly thereafter, my brother-in-law arrived, and helped get my car safely into a nearby parking lot. He took off when my husband arrived, and not a moment before.
Getting the car towed the rest of the way home took about two hours, but while we were waiting for the tow truck, my sister-in-law popped my son into the tub and gave him a bath. That set my mind at ease, because I was fretting about that, knowing a simple outing was turning into a late night. We did not get home until 10 p.m., that evening.
Then Sunday morning, a few minutes before the service began, my husband got a call from one of his brothers informing him he and their mother were locked out of the house with the car keys inside.
My husband was warming up with the rest of the choir, and my son was still in his Sunday school class, so after a few minutes of excited discussion, it was decided I should drive over and take an extra house key. It was a bit of a drive, as the church is in Jonesboro and they live in East Point. I missed a good sermon, but just made it back in time for communion.
I guess things like that are supposed to happen for a reason. It may be inconvenient at the time, but in the big scheme of things, it's a reminder how much we all depend on that family network. We're always there for each other, and when one gets in trouble or needs help, the other family members rally around.
Many a time I realized I could not have accomplished whatever it was I did without their help and support.
My husband and I are on my sister-in-law's cell phone family plan, and my husband received financial assistance from his mother to purchase a car. But family closeness goes beyond that. We often go out to dinner or Sunday afternoon lunch together, or gather together at someone's house for a meal and fellowship.
We have a spare key to each other's houses, "just in case." We take in the mail and feed the pets when one household is on vacation.
Is there such a thing as too much family togetherness? Suffice it to say that it certainly is reassuring to me that if my hubby and I both work late one night, because there will always be someone available to pick up our son from school and take him home.
That means the world to me.
When our child eventually reaches the teen years, and then adulthood, I wonder what he'll remember most about growing up. I hope it's a close, loving family.
Valerie Baldowski covers government and politics for the Henry Daily Herald. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.